x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE youngsters confident of getting off to a winning start

Ali Ibrahim, the coach of the UAE Under 17 side, said confidence was high ahead of tonight's opening game in the World Cup against Malawi.

Ali Ibrahim, the coach of the UAE Under 17 side, said confidence was high ahead of tonight's opening game in the World Cup against Malawi. The African nation are considered the minnows of Group E and although Ibrahim will not take them lightly, he has set his sights firmly on three points in the Nigerian city of Kano. "The first game is very important and a win will certainly relieve the pressure of playing in the big stage. It also gives us an opportunity to adapt," he said.

"We have done our homework but it can be different when you play in the actual competition. But otherwise there is determination and enthusiasm among the players. "They are eager and ready to give a good account of themselves. We have a full squad and everyone is eager to play in the first game." Ibrahim's only worry is stage fright. "These boys are young and may become nervous," he said." The team flew straight from Italy where they had spent the past fortnight. They drew 1-1 with Italy in the final warm-up game.

"Malawi may be the least fancied in the group but we don't expect to have an easy passage," added Ibrahim. "It's our nature to respect all our opponents and with it being the first game, no one really knows what to expect." Malawi qualified for their first participation for the Fifa tournament after Niger were disqualified for fielding overage players. The Malawi coach John Kaputa brings years of experience to the job. He has served as coach and team manager of Malawi's senior national side and for more than a decade travelled widely in Africa with the country's various teams.

The tournament began in style on Friday weith 14 goals in the first four games. The hosts Nigeria came from three goals down to draw with Germany 3-3. All Nigeria's goals arrived in a seven-minute spell in the second-half. Brazil recorded a 3-2 win over Japan, while Switzerland beat Mexico 2-0 and Argentina were 1-0 victors over Honduras. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae